Google said it would bid at least $4.6bn in an upcoming auction of 700MHz wireless spectrum in the US if certain conditions were met. They include letting consumers buy any phone, use it on any network, and download any applications, services or content they want. Google also wants the auction winner to have to sell access wholesale to other service providers.

Google's investments in unused optical fibre networks and a free Wi-Fi system for its hometown, plus its planned involvement in a San Francisco Wi-Fi network, have led to theories that it plans to compete with incumbent broadband providers.

The company has also invested in Wi-Fi sharing technology vendors Fon Technology and Meraki Networks, plus powerline broadband provider Current Communications.